The End of an Era Concerning Yellowstone Wolves

I am deeply saddened and will miss this wolf pack.
After a dominating 14-year reign in the northwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park, one of the park’s most prolific and most viewed gray wolf packs in the world may have perished.

“The Druid pack is kaput,” said Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s wolf biologist.

It happened quickly.

Only two months ago, there were 11 wolves in the pack. But after the alpha female was killed by another pack, the old alpha male wandered off rather than breed with one of the other female wolves that were his offspring. He also suffered from a bad case of mange. Mange is a skin infection caused by a mite that leads to hair loss. In animals with weakened immune systems, it can be fatal. Seven other females in the pack also had mange, and all but one have died either from mange or been killed by other packs.

“They’re down to one, and that one probably won’t make it through the winter,” Smith said.

Gardiner filmmaker Bob Landis, who has based three films on the Druid Peak pack, said its demise marks the end of several productive film years for him.

“They were, for a lot of reasons, easy to film,” he said. “The pack was reasonably tolerable of the road, so there was an opportunity to film at a reasonable distance. Other packs stay in the trees, while these guys were more in the open.”

The pack’s demise comes as regional and national media — such as PBS and National Geographic — mark the 15-year anniversary of wolves’ reintroduction to Yellowstone from captured Canadian wolves. The five-member Druid Peak pack was established one year later, in April 1996, staking out territory in the Lamar Valley near Soda Butte Creek. The pack’s name came from a nearby landmark.

In the ensuing 14 years, the pack became highly visible to park visitors, researchers, photographers and filmmakers providing groundbreaking insight into wolf interactions. When the animals denned 650 yards from the road, it prompted area closures to prevent traffic problems and human interaction with the animals.

During its existence, it’s estimated that easily more than 100,000 visitors saw the pack.


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